Picture of the Week 14/09/18: Burdale Tunnel

I love old railways, and they have played a part in my family’s life in the past. My maternal grandfather was a signalman on the London Midland and Scotland Railway, and my father started off his engineering apprenticeship making steam engines.  But before long World War Two intervened and his factory moved over into tank production. So it’s no surprise that I’m drawn to steam trains, and I’m building a model railway that runs round the walls of my study. 

While I was out walking Bruce the other day we passed close by one of the stations on the disused Malton to Driffield Railway. The line was built in the 1840’s and, although it was never successful, it struggled on to the 1950’s. Nowadays there’s not much left to see of the line. The stations have mostly been sold off as houses and there are a few lineside buildings still standing. But it’s still possible to see where the line ran and I’ve walked as many stretches of it as I can get access to. It’s difficult to imagine nowadays how extensive the rail network used to be. Our corner of rural North Yorkshire was criss-crossed by single track railways and most villages weren’t far away from a station.

This week’s picture is one I took in the spring. The Malton to Driffield Railway had some difficult terrain to cross and the most impressive piece of engineering on the line was the mile-long Burdale tunnel. My picture is of one of the bricked up tunnel entrances, and less than seventy years ago this quiet secluded area had trains running through it five or six times a day. 

I like all railways, but I’m particularly drawn to this line. It’s got a literary link too: the resident engineer who helped build the line was A.L. Dickens, the younger brother of Charles Dickens. Not bad: my favourite author combined with my favourite mode of transport!

3 Responses

  1. Jan says:

    When I see closed tunnels or buildings I always have a desire to find a way in. All the man hours spent here and now forgotten . What were their stories I wonder?

    • Dave Fernley says:

      Luke, being younger, fitter and more adventurous than me, has been in the tunnel from the Burdale side. It’s still in good nick, but I’m not sure what it would be like halfway through. You’re right though: the whole place is quite ghostly. It’s such a quiet place, but it must have been busy in the past. It’s strange, but I never feel quite alone walking there. So many stories, and most of them will stay untold: what a shame!

  2. Jane Hutchinson says:

    Interesting picture. The pole/tree off centre however puts me off. I feel as if I am looking at two photos each one different. Would love to see it without the pole! That way the two would be one. Best wishes to the three of you.

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